Crow’s Nest: mid-winter thoughts

February 6, 2013

It is nice that these “broom snows” we’re having each day are also “leaf-blower snows.” As much as I hate to use up gasoline on this, and don’t enjoy the roar of the leaf blower, it does make short work of clearing snow off of our walkways and parking lot entrance—and reduces the need for salt. The time savings are being spent on monitoring easements and readying housing for our incoming February – August intern in land stewardship and environmental education (more on this later).

This year I have pruned the very same branches that in past years I looked at and had decided must stay. Each year a little more pruning is possible so this is an expected outcome, and we don’t want to do too much pruning to a tree in any one year—it results in stress and rapid, weakly-attached new growth. Remember, we don’t prune for the sake of pruning; we prune only what is necessary for the health of the tree, to remove diseased branches, to let more light and air into a tree, to remove weak crotches and crossing or rubbing branches. We also prune to keep trails clear and to keep trees in our planted landscapes from smothering adjacent shrubs.

This last is what has prompted me this year, almost entirely on trees that I planted years ago. What seemed an innocent outreached branch last year now is causing the adjacent dogwood, or bottlebrush buckeye, or fringetree to become flat-sided from the larger tree’s shade. Now things will be a little more even, and ideally still look natural.

In spring, summer and fall I often think about how easy living is, working outdoors. No special preparations or clothing is necessary to adjust to the weather, and it is mostly comfortable. That’s not the case in winter, and we’ve had a few pretty cold spells. But there are also a few projects, mainly those involving thorny shrubs, that are best accomplished under many layers of heavy clothing.

Not a day goes by in winter that I’m not grateful for indoor plumbing, hot running water, central heat, and electric light. Without these the inconveniences of winter outdoors would also extend to indoors. We’ve had some infrastructure breakdowns this winter (failed septic pump, heating oil jelled up) that makes me all the more thankful when things are working right.

We’ll be using cold mornings over the next few weeks to mow the meadows that we don’t plan to burn this year. It’s best if the ground is hard frozen, the air temperature below 25 or 20, and the sun not yet risen high enough to start melting the ground surface. A little snow is not a problem but deep snow would be.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 6, 2013.